Last night Sir David Ormand, former director of the intelligence and security organisation GCHQ, stormed out of a live Channel 4 interview while discussing the way spies used private companies to gather information on British citizens.
Ormand, who’s held numerous high-ranking positions in defence and government, was debating on Channel 4 News the legality of telecoms company Cable & Wireless, bought by Vodafone in 2012, provided data from millions of internet users worldwide to GCHQ, the UK’s central security listening post.
Ormand was grilled by Channel 4 presenter John Snow, who was hosting a discussion that included German Green Party MP Florian Konstantin.
First, Ormand gets flustered as he answers questions on the investigation, which stems from whistleblower Edward Snowden’s leaked documents. Those files show GCHQ formed partnerships — under codenames — with the likes of Cable & Wireless and other communications operators. Channel 4 says it was all part of a spy programme called “Mastering the Internet”.
But after Ormand hurriedly says his piece, he announces he has to catch a train and darts away from the outdoor set, yaking out his earpiece as he leaves.
Off he goes:
The relationship between telecoms companies and GCHQ is under perpetual scrutiny. It’s said British spies for years made use of a transatlantic cables, owned by Indian telecoms company Reliance Communications, which ran from Asia, through the Middle East, arriving in the UK at a rural Cornish farm.
Apparently, security personnel from GCHQ were allowed to access information passed through it, and sent it on to a base in Bude, in the north of Cornwall. Channel 4 explains it hasn’t been able to establish whether Reliance Communications was served with a warrant to authorise the practises. Apparently, GCHQ planned to take a trillion gigabytes of data per second.
The deal alegedly existed until April 2013, but Vodafone claims it never gave GCHQ direct access to its network. Vodafone is particularly under fire due to allegations German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone was intercepted.
Here’s the full interview:
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